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Seven Eyes

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When you look at something, what do you see? When looking for risks and quality problems, you cannot just ‘look’ at things, you must ‘see’ beyond the superficial to what really is and what might be. An approach used in Panasonic is called ‘Seven Eyes for Risk Awareness’, and requires the viewer to take seven different perspectives in order to develop a fuller understanding and consequently find a better solution.

1. Eyes to grasp changes

See what is now in comparison to what was. Notice changes no matter how small. Do not only see the change but also think about its implication. Companies are complex interconnected systems and a small change in one area can have significant and surprising impact elsewhere. This is important when doing improvement work, as an efficient change in one place may cost the company more elsewhere.

2. Eyes with an open mind

When looking at something, we easily and quickly categorise things based on our previous experiences and internal mental models. This is a particular trap for experts who have stopped learning and are resting on their laurels. If you can stay open to alternatives, you may well see things that others miss. If you look at a problem without prejudice, then you may find true causes and not misplaced correlations or destructive blame.

3. Insect eyes

Insects are small. They go in close to see what is happening at a microscopic level. Zooming in and looking at the detail gives you a different perspective. When dealing with mechanical problems, for example, you can try to understand what is happening to the atoms. When dealing with social problems, look at what people are actually saying, watch their body language and wonder what thoughts they may be having.

4. Eyes to look into yourself

Looking into yourself with full honesty can be a very difficult thing to do, but when you are a part of a social system then the inner you can have a significant effect on the outer you, which in turn affects everyone around you. This is particularly true for managers who may miss how what they say can have damaging effects on other people. It is easy to be arrogant, to think yourself above criticism and so remain a part of the problem.

5. Iceberg eyes

Icebergs have only one tenth of their mass above the water and the submerged, hidden part can be a hazard to passing ships. Likewise, many problems are a lot deeper than they at first appear. Having ‘iceberg eyes’ means looking for what is not obvious and which may be hidden or concealed in some way, and then exposing it to the light of scrutiny that the visible parts receive.

6. Compound eyes

Insects have compound eyes that give them multiple views of the same object out of which they can develop extended perspectives. When you look at a problem from multiple perspectives, each viewpoint may tell you something different. This may mean physically walking around something or getting the views of different people. With the broader understanding this gives you will be able to find more effective solutions.

7. Bird eyes

The opposite of insect eyes is bird eyes. Birds fly high and so see the big picture, observing all the parts and how they inter-related. When you can see the system and how it is working (or not), then you can make high-level adjustments and also ensure that the solutions you do use will not upset other parts of the system.

In summary, the great advantage of using ‘seven eyes’ is in the different things you learn each time you look at something in a different way. Abraham Maslow said that ‘A man with only a hammer begins to see every problem as a nail’. With multiple perspectives you have a toolkit that you can use to distinguish nails from screws or otherwise understand what is really going on and so develop a better, more effective response.

 

Next time: WorkOut

 

This article first appeared in Quality World, the journal of the Chartered Quality Institute

 

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